Sensory subtraction in robot-assisted surgery: fingertip skin deformation feedback to ensure safety and improve transparency in bimanual haptic interaction

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2014 Apr;61(4):1318-27. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2014.2303052.


This study presents a novel approach to force feedback in robot-assisted surgery. It consists of substituting haptic stimuli, composed of a kinesthetic component and a skin deformation, with cutaneous stimuli only. The force generated can then be thought as a subtraction between the complete haptic interaction, cutaneous, and kinesthetic, and the kinesthetic part of it. For this reason, we refer to this approach as sensory subtraction. Sensory subtraction aims at outperforming other nonkinesthetic feedback techniques in teleoperation (e.g., sensory substitution) while guaranteeing the stability and safety of the system. We tested the proposed approach in a challenging 7-DoF bimanual teleoperation task, similar to the Pegboard experiment of the da Vinci Skills Simulator. Sensory subtraction showed improved performance in terms of completion time, force exerted, and total displacement of the rings with respect to two popular sensory substitution techniques. Moreover, it guaranteed a stable interaction in the presence of a communication delay in the haptic loop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering / instrumentation*
  • Feedback*
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation*
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Telemedicine
  • Touch / physiology